The Atlanta Braves are who we thought they were. The team’s General Manager, Alex Anthopoulos, is who we thought he was.
Last weekend, any lingering hopes that free agent shortstop Dansby Swanson would return to Atlanta on a “hometown discount” were squashed when the 28-year-old signed with the Chicago Cubs for $177 million over seven years. That’s an average annual value (AAV) of $25.3 million, significantly more than the Braves’ final offer of $100 million over six years ($16.3M AAV).
As much as the fanbase wanted him back, myself included, it now seems like that was never really a possibility. That’s a bummer, because if there was one player worthy of the Braves parting ways with their spending strategy under Anthopoulos, it was Swanson. In April, he became only the second player in team history to start six consecutive Opening Days at shortstop for the Braves (Rafael Ramirez). He was a childhood Braves fan, a former No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft, a World Series champion and the only player in the sport to start all 162 regular season games.
That’s nice, but it ain’t 25-million-per-year nice. If we thought that the Braves would budge on their budget strategy simply because Swanson was a fan-favorite, we were wrong. Maybe, that’s a good thing.
Maybe it’s a good thing that the Braves won’t be paying a 35-year-old shortstop over $25 million seven seasons from now. But that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. It doesn’t lessen the sting of Swanson’s see-ya. And it doesn’t soften the hard truth that has arrived at the team’s doorstep: Come Opening Day 2023, the Braves will have to fill a void at shortstop for the first time since 2016.
I like Vaughn Grissom as much as the next guy. The 21-year-old seems to be the likely replacement at shortstop for Swanson, maybe with a little Orlando Arcia sprinkled in along the way. Grissom could be good, he could be really good. We’ve seen flashes of it already in his brief 41 games played at the big-league level. But to transition from a proven player like Swanson, to a mostly unproven guy like Grissom…And at the shortstop position no less? Well, that’s tough to rationalize for a team squarely in the midst of its “window” for winning World Series titles.
Starting pitcher Max Fried, also 28 and also a former first-round pick, hits free agency in 2025 just ahead of his age 31 season. With basically every other core player locked up long term, Fried is the last of the unsigned stars on the Braves. If the Swanson and Freddie Freeman sagas are any indication, there should be no doubt about his future with Atlanta. He’s going, going, gone.
The early National Signing Period for Division I college football programs begins on Wednesday (Dec. 21) and concludes on Friday (Dec. 23). In this period, college football teams can accept National Letters of Intent from high school recruits in the Class of 2023. The rising number of players in the NCAA Transfer Portal – nearly 1,500 as of December 16 – has led to the devaluation of high school talent in recent recruiting classes. It’ll be interesting to see which schools sign a majority of their class in the early period as opposed to on the traditional National Signing Day (Wednesday, February 1, 2023).
More on the recruiting front … Georgia entered the week with the nation’s No. 2 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. UGA (23 commits) was behind only Alabama for the Class of 2023. Georgia Southern was ranked 5th in the Sun Belt and 93rd overall at the start of the week. Clay Helton and staff had 14 hard commitments, according to 247. Of the 14 commitments, 11 are rated as 3-star prospects. The Eagles are favored by three points ahead of their December 27 Camellia Bowl matchup with Buffalo.
Poor Matt Ryan. The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, now with the Indianapolis Colts, was on the losing end of the biggest comeback in NFL history on Saturday when the Vikings overcame a 33-0 halftime deficit to shock the Colts and Ryan in overtime, 39-36. For Ryan, it was the latest loss in a career largely defined by missed chances. He was the quarterback for Atlanta in the infamous Super Bowl game against the Patriots when the Birdz led 28-3 before losing 34-28 in overtime. He also lost the following leads as a Falcon: Atlanta 30, San Diego 20 (4Q/5:59); Atlanta 39, Dallas 24 (4Q/4:57); Atlanta 26, Chicago 10 (4Q/6:22); Atlanta 17, Miami 0 (3Q/12:10).
COMING SOON: BLITZ BORDER BOWL V
The 2023 Blitz Border Bowl is right around the corner, set for Saturday, January 14 at Savannah’s Memorial Stadium. Kickoff between Team Coastal Empire (Georgia) and Team Lowcountry (South Carolina) is scheduled for noon.
In its fifth year, the high school football all-star game matches up the top prep seniors from South Carolina’s low country with the best from the coastal empire for one final gridiron showcase. Proceeds from the game benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Coastal Empire. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased ahead of time, online by clicking HERE.
The game will also be televised live on WSAV-TV and streaming online at WSAV.com/Sports.
Many of the players on each roster have already committed to colleges to play on Saturdays next fall. In previous editions, players excelling in the Blitz Border Bowl have earned college scholarship offers in the hours and days following the game. Team Lowcountry won 14-13 in the fourth edition of the game last year.
For more information about sponsorship opportunities related to the Blitz Border Bowl, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information about the 2023 Blitz Border Bowl, call 912-651-0300.